$25 Million Later, 3 Pundits Kind-of-Sort-of Change Their Minds on Collusion
Shockingly, most people are sticking to their guns.
In case you've been living under a rock, special counsel Robert Mueller's nearly two-year probe into Russian election meddling did not find that the Trump campaign colluded with Russia in 2016.
Though as Reason's Elizabeth Nolan Brown noted this morning, various #Resistance journalists and other pundits have clung to the narrative that Trump is not necessarily exonerated.
They may have a point. Mueller's report does not reach any conclusions as to whether Trump obstructed justice during the investigation, according to a letter to Congress from Attorney General William Barr summarizing the report. These same pundits spent much of the past two years trying to convince people that Donald Trump and/or members of his campaign colluded with Russia based off of little concrete evidence. Mueller found the evidence available to him less airtight.
As so often happens with new information, many people stuck to their priors. Trump supporters and collusion skeptics feel vindicated. Those who pushed the Trump/Russian collusion narrative were hesitant to admit that they may have been wrong.
With that in mind, I scoured the internet for someone, anyone, who had done the unthinkable and changed their mind. I found just three examples of people who have kind of, sort of, done so. There may be more; I just couldn't find them.
- New Yorker staff writer and chief CNN legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin.
Toobin has never explicitly said with certainty that Trump colluded with Russia to win the 2016 election. But he's definitely suggested there was something fishy going on.
"We've only had 45 presidents. We now we know, one of them was elected with the explicit and intentional help of a foreign power, in violation of American law, with the open support of the candidate who benefited from the crimes," he said last July. Toobin admitted at the time there was no evidence that Trump had broken the law, but he certainly seemed to imply that Trump was in some way responsible. "Who was encouraging Russia to keep stealing these e-mails in violation of the law? Donald Trump," he said.
Flash-forward to Sunday, when Toobin said on CNN: "Certainly the most important thing is the total vindication of the president and his staff on the issue of collusion. There's just no way around that."
Toobin said he wasn't sure on obstruction.
- Morning Joe host Joe Scarborough
Scarborough is another pundit who never outright accused Trump or his campaign of collusion. He did suggest in December that due to Mueller's Russia probe, Trump was "under a pressure he's never seen in his entire life and it's just the beginning."
Then on Monday morning, Scarborough called "the release of Robert Mueller's report was the best day of [Trump's] presidency."
"But also another big headline: It is good news," he added. Scarborough may be a frequent Trump critic, but he appeared willing to take Barr's summary of Mueller's report at face value.
- Former CIA Director John Brennan
A harsh Trump critic, Brennan really seemed to believe that Mueller's report would implicate Trump in some sort of criminal wrongdoing. As recently as Wednesday, he tweeted:
Hmmm…your bizarre tweets and recent temper tantrums reveal your panic over the likelihood the Special Counsel will soon further complicate your life, putting your political & financial future in jeopardy. Fortunately, Lady Justice does not do NDAs. https://t.co/ktFRevlOcd
— John O. Brennan (@JohnBrennan) March 20, 2019
"Mr. Trump's claims of no collusion are, in a word, hogwash," he wrote in an August 2018 New York Times op-ed.
Speaking on MSNBC this morning, Brennan acknowledged he had been at least somewhat wrong. "Well, I don't know if I received bad information, but I think I suspected that there was more than there actually was," he told Scarborough, referring to Mueller's report.
Still, Brennan said he believes "there are a lot of questions that need to be answered."